Last weekend I took a crash course on taxidermy by stuffing a rat. It was 5 hour course with six first timers. On advance I was sure that they would just give you skin and materials and then we would just put it together. I was dead wrong.
Course started by whipping six half frozen rats to table and handing out scalpels, ecofiber, sewing kits and such. First we made future rat bodies from ecofiber and knotted it thick with thread. Quickly after that we started skinning rats. I had never opened animal before and was a bit nervous about it. Ofcourse as first timer some of the first cuts were a bit too deep but otherwise is was surprisingly easy. After that we started to peel skin off the meat. It became much easier when I figured out to do it with fingers instead of various instruments. Atleast I got that way much better touch and control of the process. I've had rats as pets earlier for years and really love'd 'em. I was worried how well I would take opening one up and skinning it. It was kinda weird how quickly I stopped thinking of it as one time living cute little thing. Even when saw small ribcage and such in her insides. These were not wild rats or pet rats but ones that were raised to be eaten (by snakes and reptiles silly). It took forever to work our way around legs and groin area and slowly towards the skull. When skin was completely off the carcass it had started to dry rapidly and we were working against the clock.
My ecofiberbody was pretty good and didn't need much alteration. I was nervous about sewing glass eyes (one black and one white like a blind dead eye) to body without having sure idea in what part the skin would settle. It wen't better than expected. Making leg muscles took way too long time and we practically ran almost an hour overtime and were left to finish our rats home. Several hours later when got home, the skin was quite dry already, hair was falling off real easy and my rats bottom part was in such awkward position that I used a bit force and didn't sew it fully closed (which wouldn't matter since my rat would be on upward position and open part would be against the stand). My idea was to do skaven warrior / mystic / hornedrat from Warhammer universe so it wouldn't matter much if she looked a bit mangy and ratty. The pose is quite okay now - in few weeks I will get to mount it to stand and add all sorts of details like staff, tunica, etc. I think that will be most fun part of the whole thing.
These courses are held in Götan Maailma antique store in Helsinki. It was really interesting experience, but I think I will not pursue this thing forward. Completely recommend their courses for everyone even vaguely interested. They also hold taxidermy classes with rabbit and mice and have bonejewelry course too.